Friday, December 31, 2010
James Halliday at 6:06 PM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
James Halliday at 6:49 PM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
NZ Riesling ChallengeNew Zealand has recently come up with an interesting competition for Riesling. Called the NZ Riesling Challenge, it involved 12
James Halliday at 3:19 PM
James Halliday at 3:13 PM
Monday, November 29, 2010
There are two frustrations that can beset those who want to keep the label of a particularly memorable wine they have tasted. If it’s self-adhesive, it is likely to defy all attempts to detach it from the glass bottle. If you are in a restaurant, you may not wish to take the bottle or bottles home with you, arousing amused glances from other diners. The L’Ivre d’Or is a system that I have seen used with total success in various Asian countries, and it is now being distributed on the Australian market for the first time. It involves a special plastic film which is applied to the label, and which detaches either the entire label or the printed surface of the label paper (particularly in the case of self-adhesives) and which is then transferred to a dedicated page in the smart mini album. There are 30 plastic films, and 30 double pages for the labels, with the labels on the right hand side of the open album, and a page for all sorts of notes that you might wish to make about the wine, who you drank it with, etc, etc on the facing page. It may sound complicated, but it is in fact easy, with very clear instructions on the method of use coming with the book. RRP $29.95; available through Primary Edge Promotions; email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Durand Corkscrew is one of those inventions that make you wonder why no one thought of it before. Shortly put, it is a combined corkscrew and ah-so, and is amazingly effective at removing older and fragile corks. I had a firsthand demonstration with vintage port corks in bottles from 1963, ‘66 and ‘70, corks that would normally defeat the most skilled sommelier. It is a two-stage process, the first involving the insertion of a conventional corkscrew, the second bring the ah-so into play at the same time and on the same cork. Once the two components are locked in position, the cork is extracted using a simple twist and pull technique akin to that used where the only insertion is via the ah-so.
Clear ‘how-to-use’ instructions are included with the corkscrew pack.
The Australian distributor of the corkscrew is:
Grand Millesime Pty Ltd
Unit 6/40 Batman Street
West Melbourne VIC 3003
Ph (03) 9326 5737
Fax (03) 9326 6744
The retail prices is $149, post free for pre-Christmas orders, and MasterCard and Visa cards are accepted.
More information available here on their website: http://thedurand.com/
The future makers: Australian wines of the 21st century
There is a delightful ambiguity in the name of Max Allen’s new book, The future makers. Are they the makers in the future, or the makers of the future? You should expect no less from someone who is a writer first and foremost, his inspiration coming form his mind; wine is more important in the abstract, the nuts and bolts of its physical creation in the winery of less interest.
He shares with Campbell Mattinson the ability to capture the reader with a few words, and hold it for page after page, chapter after chapter. The originality of his thought means even the most knowledgeable oenophile will find much to enjoy; at the other end of the spectrum, the occasional or social quaffer will never find themselves lost in technicalities.
It is a great Christmas gift for someone close to you, simply because you will be around to make off with it immediately after your friend has finished reading it.
This handsomely designed, colourful 440 pp hardback book is published by Hardie Grant with an RRP of $59.95. Available here and at all good bookstores.
Friday, November 26, 2010
‘At the moment, Brancott Estate is running a fantastic competition, giving one lucky winner the chance to win an exciting once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand for two which will included a visit to the Brancott Vineyard, the chance to experience a dolphin encounter and a visit to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. As part of the competition there are also 100 cases of the very first Brancott Estate to give out.’
Yes, I know, second prize is two weeks.
James Halliday at 6:17 PM
The Revolution architects are inviting all and sundry to “Join Miss Pearls @ Madame Brussels on the terrace on Rose Day 30 November, from 6pm with the official tweet up beginning at 7pm. Flights of delicious savoury rose available all night. Official tweet flight $25 for 6 sexy savoury dry roses or 2 flights for $45. Madame Brussels / Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria (03) 9662 2775. To book you and your friends a table phone Jill on 0418 590 196.”
James Halliday at 4:16 PM
Thursday, November 25, 2010
James Halliday at 2:41 PM
Monday, November 22, 2010
James Halliday at 10:56 AM
Thursday, November 18, 2010
James Halliday at 5:00 PM
James Halliday at 11:14 AM
James Halliday at 11:11 AM
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
James Halliday at 4:41 PM
James Halliday at 4:28 PM
Friday, November 12, 2010
James Halliday at 12:06 PM
James Halliday at 12:05 PM
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
James Halliday at 3:00 PM
Understandably, Matt Fowles (CEO of Plunkett Fowles) is inordinately pleased that the 2008 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz won the Trophy for Australia’s Best Shiraz in the 2010 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge – the first Victorian wine ever to do so. Go to the Plunkett Fowles website for further details, availability and price; www.plunkettfowles.com.au
James Halliday at 2:58 PM
Monday, November 8, 2010
James Halliday at 2:00 PM
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thus we had 2010 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling; 2008 Giaconda Chardonnay; 2008 Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir; 2008 Wendouree Shiraz; 2009 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier; and 2007 Cullen Diana Madeline. Two outriders were the wine on arrival, Clonakilla’s 2010 Viognier Nouveau and the concluding wine, Morris Rare Liqueur Muscat, the latter not included in the Classification because it (in common with virtually all Rutherglen Muscats) is non vintage.
The Clonakilla viognier ($22) is one of the most immediately accessible and enjoyable viogniers I have seen for a long time. It finds that razor-thin balance between bland anonymity on the one hand, and phenolic, oily richness on the other. Made as if it were a riesling, it was bottled in June, with beautiful citrus, pear and a hint of apricot fruit; has really wonderful mouthfeel and a clean finish.
The Grosset was accompanied by ‘snow crab’, one of those dishes that only Shewry could conceive of and execute, in no way derivative, simply coming out of his imagination (and a fair bit of trial and error in the kitchen in the development phase, no doubt). The presentation alluded to a snow-capped mountain, the snow on the outside of the mini-mountain on the plate a profusion of other textures and flavours hidden underneath. A perfect match with the riesling.
Then followed one of Shewry’s signatures, described on the menu as ‘a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown’. It is a dish which transcends explanation, even belief. How can you make a single, small oval potato taste and feel like this? Sometimes I dilly dally over food where I am too busy talking, and the food is not especially riveting; here, I dillied and dallied by design, stringing out the process of eating the dish and savouring its beguiling texture and astonishing flavour as long as I could. The nutty, layered characters of the Giaconda chardonnay were perfect for the dish.
The Bass Phillip pinot was accompanied by a dish described as ‘pork tail, prawn, onion’. Shewry is economical with his descriptions for dishes which have almost unnoticed complexities, both in appearance and, of course, in their flavour and texture. Heaven knows how many confit pork tails had to be stripped of their flesh for each plate, ultimately coming together in an oblong wedge with a crumbly coating, sitting on a thin apple mousse. The one question I had was the reason for the accompanying two salty prawns.
Beef, sea lettuce and white cabbage followed with the Wendouree shiraz and Clonakilla shiraz viognier. The quantity of each dish in an extensive menu was brilliantly calibrated; the two pieces of beautifully cooked beef, a uniform red to the very edge, yet not cooked sous vide, had so much flavour they carried two massively contrasting interpretations of shiraz without demur. How can you make ‘simple’ triangles of beef fillet taste unlike anything you have previously encountered?
The final dish was ‘lamb, mushrooms roasted over wood, sauce of forbs’. If I remember the explanation correctly, forbs are sour woodland grasses and herbs; soursop, some type of guide. As with so many of the other dishes, you could be given the recipe and technique down to the finest detail, but have no hope of creating a dish to even go close to the quality of Shewry’s. The devil is in the detail, the presentation precisely delineated, beautiful, and yet not tricky. One of the types of mushrooms was a small Paris mushroom, and I would not have believed so much flavour could be infused into such a commonplace and bland mushroom. The lamb was also exquisitely cooked, a variation on the beef theme, yet so different. Vanya Cullen is a soul-mate of Tim Kirk, both obsessed with excellence, and the wine was a perfect match.
I am most emphatically not a devotee of blue cheese, however presented. The menu simply described it as ‘blue cheese, red wine reduction’ which was downright deceitful, for there was a great deal more to it than that. More out of politeness than anything else I cut a portion to accompany the Morris muscat, and before I knew it the dish was three-quarters gone.
All in all, a magical mystery tour of beautiful wines and exhilarating food from one of the very greatest, if not the greatest, of Australian restaurants. Oh, and yes: the 2009 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier ($85, www.clonakilla.com.au) is superb. Plushly textured, with layer upon layer of flavour in what remains a medium-bodied palate, with a wanton display of exotic spices accompanying the red cherry and plum fruit, the finish perfectly balanced. Tim Kirk is not one of those who takes delight in blowing his own trumpet, but he did admit that this might be his best shiraz viognier to date.
James Halliday at 3:18 PM
James Halliday at 2:05 PM
When brothers Sidney, Donald and Wyndham Smith enrolled at Adelaide’s iconic St Peters College, their classes contained 12 other Smiths. To avoid confusion, all of the Smiths were asked to go home and, in consultation with their families, return to school the following morning with different surnames. The Yalumba trio decided that they would join their mother’s maiden name, Hill, hence today’s name.
2. What was Yalumba’s Brandivino?
It was a very popular, large selling (for a while) forerunner to RTDs, beating today’s drinks by some 80 years. It was a wine and brandy blend.
3. How many consecutive vintages did Dan Tyrrell make?
4. Am I related to the Tyrrell family?
Yes; on my mother’s side via the Hungerford family, in the case of Tyrrell’s forged when Edward Tyrrell married Susan Hungerford in 1869. I have well over 50 first cousins, so normally don’t consider second and third cousins, but a genealogist would be able to spell out the precise relationship between myself and Bruce Tyrrell.
5. Eric Purbrick of Tahbilk came to Australia with qualifications as an accountant, and as a barrister, having been admitted to the Inner Temple in London to practise as a barrister, with an additional Master of Arts Degree. When he enlisted in the Australian Army in 1939, what rank was he given?
6. Vittorio De Bortoli arrived in Australia in 1924 to start a new life with only a few coins in his pocket. How long was it before his fiancée Giuseppina saved enough money to be able to join Vittorio in Australia?
Five years (1929)
7. What was the most notable feature of Vittorio?
He could neither read nor write.
For more information on AFFW, go to www.affw.com.au
Thursday, October 28, 2010
James Halliday at 4:24 PM
The aim of AFFW is to showcase a representative and diverse range of the best of Australian wines, working to engage consumers, retailers, restaurateurs and the wine industry across the globe. Most importantly, it aims to highlight the real character and personality of top quality Australian wine, and about the unique characters and personalities behind it.
Membership is not restricted to the existing 12 wineries, and other wineries with similar aims and histories would be welcome to join provided they satisfy various criteria. These are: being family controlled (in a legal sense); having history of at least two (preferably three) generations involved in the business; the ability to offer a tasting of at least 20 vintages of one or more iconic brands; ownership of established vineyards more than 50 years old and/or distinguished sites that exemplify the best of terroir; a commitment to environmental best practice in vineyards, wineries and packaging; and long-term commitment to export markets. There are one or two other requirements as well.
In Melbourne last night AFFW had a dinner on the 89th Level of Eureka Tower to celebrate its first birthday, preceded by the launch of Heart & Soul, a brilliantly researched, written and produced book telling the stories of each of the 12 Families. The author is Graeme Lofts who, contrary to my expectation, was not commissioned by the AFFW to write the book; rather, he conceived the idea of it after attending the inaugural event at the Opera House in Sydney a year ago. Published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd, its 343 pages are printed in full colour on high-quality paper stock, making the RRP of $39.95 thoroughly justified. The photographs, both contemporary and ancient, constantly enliven the book, which is compelling reading once you open the cover. It is full of anecdotes, insights, tragedies and triumphs, and doesn’t gloss over the occasional period of unhappiness in one or other of the Families. The underlying theme is the ability of these families to pick themselves up off the floor no matter how hard the elements try to defeat them, or financial crises beset them.
By virtue of my long friendship with almost all of the members, attending many wine events organised by them over the past 40 years, reading books previously published about them, and some research I undertook for various books I have written, I found some of the incidents quite fascinating, especially those which I had no idea of.
So today I ask questions which are answered in the book, the answers to be posted tomorrow.
Why did the Smith family that founded Yalumba change its name to Hill Smith?
What was Yalumba’s Brandivino?
How many consecutive vintages did Dan Tyrrell make?
Am I related to the Tyrrell family?
Eric Purbrick of Tahbilk came to Australia with qualifications as an accountant, and as a barrister, having been admitted to the Inner Temple in London to practise as a barrister, with an additional Master of Arts Degree. When he enlisted in the Australian Army in 1939, what rank was he given?
Vittorio De Bortoli arrived in Australia in 1924 to start a new life with only a few coins in his pocket. How long was it before his fiancée Giuseppina saved enough money to be able to join Vittorio in Australia?
What was the most notable feature of Vittorio?
I could go on and on, but tomorrow’s answers will hopefully pique your interest.
The book is available through good bookstores.
James Halliday at 2:08 PM
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
James Halliday at 9:30 AM
James Halliday at 9:28 AM
Monday, October 25, 2010
James Halliday at 9:36 AM
Monday, October 18, 2010
The 2008 The Everest Grenache won the Trophy for Best Single Vineyard Red Wine.
James Halliday at 12:47 PM
Thursday, October 14, 2010
James Halliday at 11:36 AM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
James Halliday at 12:15 PM
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
James Halliday at 11:29 AM
Monday, September 13, 2010
Courtesy of Brian Miller
James Halliday at 9:45 AM
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The discussion around corks usually focuses on TCA and/or oxidation. This leaves aside the mechanical properties of cork, ie what is its quality, and how well has it been inserted into the bottle? The four corks illustrated were all removed from their respective bottles on the same day, all from ultra-premium/icon wines costing between a low of $80 and a high of $500+. Only the cork on the righthand side gives me as much confidence as one could ever have with a cork. The one on the left is a certain harbinger of problems to come, wine having travelled (some time ago) halfway up the cork on all sides. The two in the middle are FAQ (fair-average quality) and may or may not outlive the wine in the bottle.
James Halliday at 3:48 PM
Monday, August 30, 2010
French Rabbit Tops Green Wine Rankings. Read more here:
Courtesy of Brian Miller.
James Halliday at 9:25 AM
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
• Farm-gate value of grapes fell by $35 million to $80 million, a 31% fall in revenue from 2009
• Production fell by 13%, down to 328,000 tonnes (2009 375,000 tonnes)
• The average price per tonne fell 24% for red grapes to $311 and 28% down for white grapes to $283
• These prices are well below the average vineyard cost of $376 per tonne
• Since 2005 grower revenues have fallen from close to $200 million down to $80 million.
But that is only part of the story. Win, lose or draw, the water that makes grape growing possible in the Murray Valley is going to become more expensive. The water outlook for growers in the Riverina is better in the short term, but in the long run there may be little difference between the regions. So the cost of production will increase.
Continuing the bad news, the quality and price advantages that Australia once held over its New World and Old World competitors alike has all but disappeared. It matters not that Australia pointed the way for its competitors via its Flying Winemakers, by publishing its Vision 2025, and by achieving its 2025 goals in seven, not 30 years.
Yet there is hope that Australia may once again prove itself to be the 'Lucky Country'. Its extraordinary economic performance in the face of the GFC is but part of the broader trade ties it has with China, Japan and India (and with the smaller Asian economies). Wine is a global commodity these days, and will become more so in the years ahead, and Australia is not the major wine player in Asia: France occupies that role.
But China is already our fourth-largest export market, and — viewed from the Chinese side — has an imported wine share of 20%, second only to France with 40$, and a long way in front of Chile, California and South Africa with 7% each. At the present time, reports suggest up to 90% of all wine sold in China is domestically produced, but most agree a large proportion of this wine is made by blending a small percentage of (true) Chinese wine with imported bulk wine.
This in turn reflects the generally unsophisticated Chinese market, and is no surprise. Indeed, it is a positive, because the consumers of this wine are overwhelmingly Chinese, rather than expats or tourists. The rate of lifestyle change in China is phenomenal: for example, when I started Coldstream Hills in 1985, there was only one privately owned car in Beijing (all others were state owned).
As the number of Chinese with serious amounts of disposable income continues to soar, it is inevitable that sales of imported wine with a tangible pedigree will follow suit. Other positives are the suitability of the various Chinese cuisines to wine; the absence of religious barriers; the long history of alcohol consumption; and the physical proximity of China (compared to Europe or North America).
If Australia is to maintain its share of a rapidly growing wine market, it will need to provide wine across the full spectrum of price, from beverage (technically premium) wine at an equivalent of less than $AUD10, super-premium ($10-$15), ultra-premium ($15-$50) and icon (over $50).
Premium volume is greater than all other categories combined, and provides the essential entry point product. It is here that the Murray Valley and Riverina come into their own. Lest it be though this is inconsistent with my gloomy introduction, the contempt born of familiarity that pervades the UK market, less so but still a factor in the US, need not be an issue in China.
If the opening of Wine Australia offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong achieves the anticipated success, the present surplus may turn to a shortage in a very short time, and a shortage at a critical time in the development of the Chinese market will have serious long-term consequences.
James Halliday at 9:17 AM
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The award of the title of Young Gun Australian Winemaker of the Year to Rollo Crittenden is well merited, although the gun has had plenty of use to date. His experience began at Dromana Estate, established by his father Garry; Rollo continued as chief winemaker after Garry sold his shareholding, but eventually he moved on making wine in California, Oregon, Italy and the Hunter Valley before coming back home to rejoin his father at Crittenden Estate, which had been established in 2003. Garry was one of the early movers in the development of alternative varietals (Italian) with the ‘i’ range. This interest is now reflected in the Los Hermanos range developed by Rollo and sister Zoe; Los Hermanos apparently translates as ‘the siblings’.
James Halliday at 2:56 PM
please, excuse my English.’
James Halliday at 2:53 PM
Monday, August 23, 2010
One grape block producer sold nine varieties: Port, Virginia Dare, Muscatel, Angelica, Tokay, Sauterne, Riesling, Claret and Burgundy.
... During Prohibition, many California wineries shut down and wine production plummeted, but the grape harvest actually increased. The smart money cleaned up by not making wine. Instead they grew grapes by the long ton — getting millions in federal loans for new vineyards – and sold DIY wine kits.Ukiah Grape Products Co. sold fermentable juice and got clean away with it until a federal judge thought it a bit much that Ukiah agents, in outstanding displays of on-site service, made house calls to bottle their clients’ wine.
Fruit Industries Ltd. also sold juices and concentrates, and is even now fondly remembered for Vine-Glo—‘bricks’ of dried grapes sold complete with packets of yeast and stern warnings to keep the two away from water lest the unthinkable occur.
(Actually, what occurred was the undrinkable) ...
Courtesy of Brian Miller.
James Halliday at 11:48 AM
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
James Halliday at 2:14 PM
Monday, August 16, 2010
James Halliday at 2:13 PM
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Notwithstanding the huge bull effigy welcoming everyone as they entered, the explanation (apparently) is that Argentinean and Chilean approaches to beef are very different to that of Brazil, for the restaurant’s subtitle is Arte da culinaria Brasileria. Chef Stacy Thompson and wine director Raul Moreno Yague both have impressive CVs: Stacy starting in his native New Zealand, crossing the United Kingdom and Australia after a stint in the island of Morro de Sao Paulo in Brazil where, despite his very limited Portuguese, he leased a local restaurant from its owners, gutted and redesigned its layout, and created a successful restaurant that maintained integrity and respect for Brazilian cuisine. That must have taken considerable courage.
James Halliday at 10:49 AM
Monday, August 9, 2010
The early harvests of recent years are substantially due to the whole vegetative cycle for the vine starting early and finishing early. In other words, hang time (the period between budburst and harvest) has not been dramatically shortened; it is simply that dry, warm soils have caused trees, shrubs, plants and grapevines to spring into life earlier than normal. Unless the weather in southern Victoria and much of southern South Australia changes radically over the next two months (and the long-range forecasts suggest that there is a better-than-even chance that rainfall will either be normal or above-normal) the vines will enter spring with the soil profile filled with water. This should mean normal budburst and, hopefully, a reversion to a more normal ripening period.
James Halliday at 9:13 AM
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Three years ago Chef’s Table was born out of a desire to progress faster with the development of our cuisine, throw caution to the wind and to offer guests more variety at a reasonable price. The menu is a living, breathing thing that evolves week to week. I work on it during the weekend and let the seasons dictate what they may in terms of ingredients; many of the dishes are inspired by memories of my childhood in rural New Zealand and by sights of nature and life that I discover on my drive to work from my home on the Bellarine Peninsula. Some dishes are just inspired by common sense and beautiful produce.
My team and I arrive each morning to begin the day’s preparations, we gather around a bench and discuss how we will go about forming these new ideas and thoughts into something cohesive as a menu. The evening’s food will take about 50 hours to produce.
None of these dishes have been prepared before...
The menu (with matching wines) was:
Button mushroom, nashi, goat’s milk curd
Crittenden Pinocchio Arneis 2009 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
Sticky rice, Chinese sausage, poached chicken
Rimauresq Rose 2008 (Cotes de Provence, France)
Crystal Bay prawn, tofu, shitake broth
Monredon Cotes du Rhône Blanc 2009 (Rhône Valley, France)
Lamb neck, garlic, silverbeet, quinoa
Finca Flichman Gestos Malbec 2007 (Mendoza, Argentina)
Mandarin, lemon myrtle, tamarillo
Plantagenet Ring Bark Riesling 2008 (Mount Barker, WA)
The sommelier Ainsley (ex The Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld) has a fabulous wine list at Attica, and came up with very imaginative wine matches. For me the Lamb neck was the outstanding dish, closely followed by the Crystal Bay prawn and Sticky rice/poached chicken dishes.
Time will tell whether any or all appear on the ‘normal’ menu available through the rest of the week.
James Halliday at 3:15 PM
Monday, July 19, 2010
The photographs tell 90% of the story, but, incredibly stupidly, I didn’t take a photo of Greg Kerr with his nose to the ground after the dog had suggested the presence of a truffle. In the six years he has been harvesting truffles, he has been able to develop his sense of smell to the point where he can have a fair idea whether the truffle is ready to harvest (or is ripe), and can also have a fair idea about false nose-outs by the dog. This happens with other fungi, but also things such as ants nests – we had one this morning, and apparently it is the formic acid that misleads the dog. However, it should be forgiven. It works at a frenetic pace, and – having discovered a truffle – gives one lightning-fast scratch that barely marks the surface. Since the truffles are less than 10cm below the surface, its natural instinct to dig has been curbed by training.
There are good vintages for truffles, and not so good. This is partly determined by the amount of rain, heat and other factors between December and March when the embryonic truffles start to gain mass. In another decade he thinks he may be able to be more able to accurately predict what will happen in a given year. July is the start of the peak period of 12 weeks for the harvest. Once exhumed, the truffles stay alive for 10 to 12 days, and during this period are far more aromatic than later. So it’s a split second timing issue for Greg Kerr and his small stable of chosen restaurants which buy the truffles.
The largest truffle harvested in our presence was around 35gm (43gm with the dirt still adhering) and that truffle had a particularly favourable scent.
The inoculated hazelnut and blue oak trees are sold in pots from the supplier in Tasmania, and in Tibooburra’s case, produced their first truffles after only two and a half years, which Greg Kerr believes to be the least period recorded. Sometimes the wait is five or more years.
Aussie Truffle Dogs: http://www.aussietruffledogs.com.au/
James Halliday at 3:08 PM
Friday, July 16, 2010
I am (accurately) quoted as saying ‘Rhine Riesling – most versatile grape of them all’. It comes from an article I wrote for the National Times on October 5, 1980, when ‘Rhine’ was used to denote the variety, ‘Riesling’ simply an amorphous style. I have to admit I was slightly curious about the precise context of my statement, but the immaculate footnotes throughout the book took me back to the article in question. The quote comes from the header to the article, and I expanded it slightly with the following observations, ‘It’s an extremely versatile grape. Wines made from it cover the range from bone-dry through to the slightly sweet moselle style, thence to spatlese and finally the fully sweet auslese.’ Here I was referring to the thoroughly incorrect use of those terms in Australia, albeit rare, even if Thomas Hardy subsequently sold and marketed a beerenauslese.
In between 1980 and the mid-1990s rieslings with modest levels of residual sugar (akin to the kabinett wines of the Mosel Valley) largely disappeared, leaving the extremes of dry on the one hand, and extremely rich and sweet on the other (an obvious example being Brown Brother Patricia Noble Riesling). But with the move of riesling to seriously cool parts of Australia, wines made in the Mosel style have gained real traction. Here the wheel has turned full circle.
More recently still, another dimension has been added with rieslings given skin contact and/or fermentation of cloudy juice with subsequent extended lees contact. Two examples I have tasted recently that are quite outstanding are the O’Leary Walker 2008 Drs’ Cut Riesling and the 2009 Delatite Riesling, the former with skin and lees contact, the latter simply wild yeast fermentation of cloudy juice and eight months lees contact. An even more extreme example has been Mac Forbes Tradition Riesling, an example of natural winemaking with its roots in bygone centuries.
Riesling in Australia has been handsomely produced in full colour and can be purchased through www.winebiz.com.au; or email email@example.com
James Halliday at 2:51 PM
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
James Halliday at 9:57 AM
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
James Halliday at 11:30 AM
Thursday, July 8, 2010
James Halliday at 9:44 AM
James Halliday at 9:22 AM
Saturday, July 3, 2010
In Tony Keys’ KROW Report No. 28 (22 June) he makes the interesting observation that the 2010 production of 1.56 million tonnes, equivalent to 1.07 billion litres is slightly under annual sales of 1.1 to 1.2 billion litres. All well and good, he says, but how much overhand is there from 2009, and possibly before? That is indeed a question, but (given Keys’ eagle eyes and propensity for cold showers) there is another question: how much of the 1.1 to 1.2 billion litres has been sold with a profit margin, no matter how slender?
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
So it led me to reading the full article, and finding that it was full of interest and right on the money. Over the years, Matt Kramer and I have agreed to disagree on various matters, but not this time. Jumping to his conclusion, he comes down heavily (including via his cheque book) on the side of wines from old vines.
He covers all the bases, starting with the question, how old is old? There is no legal definition anywhere in the world, and only the Barossa Valley has come up with a (non-binding) charter: old vines, 35 years or older; survivor vines, 75 years or older; and centurion vines, 100 years or older.
I’m not going to repeat all the points Kramer makes, because the article is so well-balanced and written. However, there is one comment that may be a statement of the obvious, but I will make it nonetheless. Splitting the difference between old and survivor, and adopting 50 years (as does Kramer) as satisfactorily old, vines this age will only exist if they continue to be in good health and produce high quality grapes in acceptable quantities.
This in turn means the vines must have been planted on the right site – terroir if you will – with well-drained soil providing the right amount of nutrients; row orientation and aspect (north- or northeast-facing in the southern hemisphere) correct; and trellis/pruning method/canopy management all appropriate.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The food centres around traditional southern France cuisine; Suzanne and I both started with warm salade tete de veau, which turned out to have no conventional salad, just herbs of Provence cooked with the melt-in-the-mouth cubes of veal cheek, a dish which required repeated raids on the bread basket. One of the specials of the night was cassoulet, which I chose, Suzanne taking the boudin basque off the main menu. The tete de veau was filling, the cassoulet brought me to a complete standstill. It’s possible to take the view that once you have eaten cassoulet you don’t need to go back a second time; if I had taken that view, I would have been much the poorer gastronomically. The beans and sauce had a creamy viscosity which challenged the two types of sausage and duck for supremacy. Glasses of very respectable Sancerre were followed by an outstanding 2008 Morgon Beaujolais, complete with a heavy wax capsule. With coffee and sparkling water the cost was 135 Euros. Open for lunch and dinner, La Fontaine De Mars is found at 129 rue Saint Dominique 75007, Paris; phone +33 (0)1 47 05 46 44; fax +33 (0)1 47 05 11 13; www.fontainedemars.com
Monday, June 14, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Three sun-filled and decidedly hot (plus 30˚C) days in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (above) and Gigondas greeted the 120 members of the Academie du Vin de France and of the Academie Internationale du Vin in a rare joint summer convocation. The first day began in the late afternoon with a ‘gaudineto’, a Provencale multi-course dinner at the Auberge de Cassagne, where most of us stayed (below). Visits to (and tastings, of course) Domaine des Bosquets and Chateau St Cosme in Gigondas (plus obligatory dissertations in rapid-fire French, covering all manner of things including the complicated geology underpinning the terroir of Gigondas) were leavened by a high quality lunch at Restaurant L’Oustalet on the main square of Gigondas under massive plane trees providing total shade. The afternoon (Palais des Papes) and dinner (Hotel de l’Europe) in Avignon were play-time events, the dinner made serious by the even better food.
The next day was largely given to Chateau de Beaucastel, with more dissertations, before a fascinating tasting of the components of Beaucastel Rouge: mourvedre (30%) providing tannin structure, grenache (30%) the core of the fruit flavours and drive; counoise (15%), a surprise packet liked by all for its intensity (nervosity), elegance and length; syrah (10%) giving colour and acidity; cinsaut (5%) mid-palate fruit and spice, the remaining 10% equally split between various white and red varieties. Lunch followed in a very large and very stylish white-tented outdoor setting before a visit to Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe (four vintages back to 1985). A costume change into best plumage was followed by hors d’oeuvres and Billecart-Salmon before a dinner in the Beaucastel Cellars, highlighted by 1987 Vielles Vignes (70 year old) Reserve Reserve Roussanne (golden and nutty), then 1980 Beaucastel Rouge, a glorious wine in exceptional condition.
James Halliday at 9:58 AM
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Yet tasting the ‘08s – only one bottled by May 30, 2010 – there were little or no signs of botrytis and none whatsoever of any mould or other taint. The sorting table did get rid of 20% of the crop, leaving grapes with low pH, high acidity and 13% to 14% potential alcohol. The wines have evolved in barrel and (thereafter) small closed tanks at a snail’s pace, the malolactic fermentation still to finish for some; some will not be bottled until after the 2010 vintage. It is clear they will be very slow-developing wines, a radical contrast to the ‘06s, for example. Our tasting ran through Puligny Montrachet (commune), Puligny Montrachet Les Clavoillon, Les Folatieres, Les Pucelles, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet, an exhilarating ride up the quality ladder of Burgundy – particularly given the quality of the starting point. Domaine Leflaive (not to be confused with Olivier Leflaive) is one of the greatest producers of white burgundy; its wines are expensive and scarce, but each and every ‘08 will be worth fighting for when they arrive in Australia towards the end of this year – possibly in two shipments.
Friday, June 4, 2010
There are 25 rooms that are far less costly than one might imagine, a tariff that ensures a permanently full house. The restaurant, which takes bookings from all and sundry, has one Michelin star, but is obviously looking for a second; it has all the requisite space, the ambience and the immaculately-clad staff smoothly moving constantly around the floor.
I did not know it was listed in Michelin as a house specialty, but I urge first-time diners to have (as an entrée) Risotto carnaroli au vert, cuisses de grenouilles et escargots de Bourgogne – a frothy, pea-green tangy broth of al dente rice, de-boned frogs legs and snails. And so much more. We were the guests of Veronique Drouhin and husband Michel Boss, the 2002 Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru (Morgeot, though not labelled as such) was a perfect bottle of wine starting to find full expression, and a 1992 Chambolle Musigny Les Baudes 1er Cru (the year Veronique Drouhin married and Vanya Cullen sang solo in the church as a surprise for Veronique) was in equally fine fettle.
Hostellerie de Levernois , 21200 Beaune; phone (03) 80 24 73 58; fax (03) 80 22 78 00; www.levernois.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
James Halliday at 10:05 AM
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Ma Cuisine, Passage St Helene, 21200 Beaune; phone 03 80 22 30 22; email@example.com
James Halliday at 9:35 AM